Ten Things *NOT* to say while visiting an animal shelter.

26 Mar

If you want to pretty much guarantee that you will not be going home with a dog from an animal shelter, saying any combination of the following should do the trick.  (Note: These are all things BusyBee has been told or overheard while volunteering at the shelter)


1.  “I love dogs.  In fact, my dogs have had had several litters”

 Bragging about the multiple accidental litters your intact dogs have had the past few years is really uncouth in a shelter.  Know thy audience.


2. “Who around here does cropping and docking?”

Yeah…..I’ve been asked this about adult dogs before.  Asking about docking and cropping an adult dog certainly raises some red flags about your intentions, humanity, and common sense.

3.  “I’m looking for a guard dog.”

 We want all of our dogs to be loving members of a family.  Keeping your dog tied outside on a chain is not something we will allow our dogs to do.  If you insist on having a guard dog, find somewhere else to get a dog.  We will not knowingly adopt out a dog into that kind of situation.

That’s more like it.

4.  “Is it alright if I let my kid go in the kennel and tug on the dog’s tails and ears to see how it responds?”

 Ummm…no.  Seriously.  Just….no.



5.  “Is there anyway you can send this dog home without being neutered?”

 All dogs coming out of our shelter will be spayed or neutered.  Deal with it.  And if you don’t like that, adopt elsewhere.  We don’t make exceptions.


6. “I know it says not to touch the animals, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal”

See those signs on each kennel door that say “Please do not touch the dogs”?  Yeah, that means you.  Please do not place hands, fingers, toes, or noses through the kennel doors.  Seriously.  And don’t think I don’t see you doing so when I turn my back for a second.


photo (8)


7. “Look, this dog freaks out when I put my hat on and stare at him.  Wanna see?”

It is not funny or cute to knowingly freak out a dog, most of which are already stressed out by being in the shelter in the first place.  Shoving your face in theirs, staring them down, or laughing at them as they bark is really uncool. If you notice that a dog is scared or reactive towards you, kindly step away.


“Make the Idiot go away”

8.  “Our last three dogs didn’t work out because they were too much work.”

 Oh sure, let’s give you a 4th dog that will be returned as soon as you realize that it too pees, poops, and requires exercise.   Dogs take work, and we’re pretty sure at this point you are unwilling to put the effort in to any dog, so you certainly aren’t going to take one of ours just to dump it back in the shelter a few weeks later.

“Perhaps you’d prefer our high tech model? Unlike a real dog, you can just remove the batteries when it requires you to get off the couch.”

9.  “That adoption fee is too much.  Can I strike a bargain?”

Please do not try to haggle with us over adoption fees. The adoption fee that we ask doesn’t even begin to cover what we spend on each dog.  We neuter/spay, groom, deworm, heartworm test, vaccinate, microchip, treat injuries and illness, buy quality dog food, bowls, tags, collars, leashes, heartworm and flea preventative, crates and anything else we need.  Also, if you can’t afford, or aren’t willing to pay the $150 to adopt a dog, I have serious doubts you can afford a dog in the long run.


10.  “I can’t wait to surprise my girlfriend with a puppy!”

No, you may not get a dog as a gift for someone.  Seriously, worst idea ever.  Don’t even ask us. Do you know how many dogs get returned when the recipient of the gift is either not prepared to deal with the dog, allergic, or just unwilling to keep it?  Dogs are commitments, not a substitute for having forgotten to get flowers on your way home from work.


“Next time, try a nice card or a bottle of merlot.”

38 Responses to “Ten Things *NOT* to say while visiting an animal shelter.”

  1. Lin March 26, 2013 at 3:29 am #

    nailed it, on all counts…

    • amanda March 3, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

      I completely disagree saying you want a guard dog does not necessarily mean anything bad. I have always had dogs as pets but they were also excellent guard dogs because they barked and were a large breed. I got turned away from a shelter just for saying i want a puppy for a pet and also it will make a good guard dog. Dogs protect their pack. It is their instinct. I don’t understand how treating its wrong to use those words when the dog is as much a pet as anyone elses. I have read about heaps of cases of great pet owners being turned away by shelters for rediculous reasons such as a family who were refused a pet because they had children. Many people end up turning to pet shops and breeders because some shelters make it near impossible to adopt a pet. We need to respect and look after animals but we need to respect each other too.

      • Star November 11, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

        There are actually fairly critical differences between a watch dog, a guard dog, and a pet that will still likely alert you to things.

  2. kristennoelle March 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Here’s a few goodies.

    – of they’re at a shelter there must be something wrong with them.
    ( nope, the dog has no control over genetics, environment, training, treatment, or the family that’s chosen them. )

    -I want a puppy
    (Typically the same person who whines about wanting a puppy is the person who won’t put the effort into preparation before the baby comes home. In fact, how often are puppies brought home on impulse? There has to be statistics somewhere.)

    I want to add on to your commentary on adoption fees. When people say the fee is too much, have they any idea what the cost is via backyard breeder, petstore, puppy broker, rescue ect. Shelter adoption fees are minimal. In fact, they should ask for MORE money.

    I once witnessed someone bicker about a price difference between a city shelter and an apl for their kittens. The person felt the need to discuss it with a volunteer. The person then left the shelter and wasted gas and car miles to go to the apl.
    That person was looking directly into the eyes of a volunteer who put in hours of personal time and funds to help animals in need. Just because..
    Horrifying to see. I can’t believe someone would price compare kittens like they’re bottles of laundry detergent at target and Wal mart. ” why yes we’ll price match here”
    We’re all here for the people not the animal.

    -as for the mechanical dog.
    When the batteries ran out. They would toss the dog at the fresh batteries and yell “go fetch”

  3. Prairie April 11, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    At the shelter where I volunteer, a guy came in looking for a husky dog who was listed on the website. The dog had been adopted earlier in the day. He asked if there were any more huskies, and I said no, but that I could introduce him to some other spitz type dogs, and a gorgeous Samoyed. The Samoyed is three years old, which he said was “too old” – and he seemed annoyed that there weren’t more huskies. He then said “Well, how often does your stock turn over?” I was speechless. This is a shelter, not a big box store out of your favorite kind of Kleenex, buster. Which I did not say, because we’re supposed to be polite. A few days ago a guy came – with his wife and her daughter – looking for a neighbor’s husky (did a movie come out or something? What gives with the husky mania?) which he said had gotten loose, brought in as a stray, and put up for adoption – which was fine with her, she just wanted another husky. Weirdos. Lots of weirdos. Not least because that dog would have been at the shelter for a couple of weeks before being adoptable – found dog hold, then healthy dog check and SAFER and all kinds of stuff, THEN being made available in the adoption area. I wondered why some of the people at the shelter seemed so unfriendly at first but now I understand it pretty well. It’s because of the number of outright weirdos wandering in and out of there.

    • Leigh Hilderbrandt August 7, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      @ Prairie – You are lucky to have a shelter that holds strays for weeks. Unfortunately, not all shelters hold found pets for that long. I know of many shelters in the South that only have a three day stray hold. After those three days, the animal is either made available for adoption or becomes a candidate to be euthanized. And, pets that are owner-surrenders can be euthanized the same day they come in if the shelter is full and it happens to be one of the days that they euthanize; they are not required to try to adopt the pets out and there’s no need for a stray hold because the owner is the one who brought them in (sadly, ownership is rarely verified, so a neighbor or bad relative could bring a pet in to be euthanized without the owner’s knowledge or consent). Many of those shelters aren’t even open on evenings and weekends when most families would be able to come out to find their lost pet or to adopt one.

      It’s obvious that many people are ignorant and irresponsible and should never be allowed to have pets. I just hope they don’t read this and then not say these kinds of things even though that’s how they actually feel. Shelter and rescue volunteers and staff need to listen not only for these kinds of red-flag statements, but also watch for how they interact with the animals, and pay attention to their body language. And, shelters/rescues should do some kind of reference checks. Someone might say all the right things and look good on paper as an adopter, but they could still end up being a terrible owner simply because they knew what to say and write. You’d like to think that people wouldn’t lie in order to get a pet, but I think we all know that there are some horrible people out there. Adoptions are never as cut and dried as they seem.

      • pommom101690 August 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

        Leigh, I can’t speak for other states in the South, but the Alabama has a mandatory 7 day stray hold

  4. mn_me August 7, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Two of my pet adoption experiences:

    1) When I bought my first house, I went to the local humane society to find a dog/puppy. Nearly every older dog in were 18 month old Black Labs. Most of the comment cards on their kennels read: “Can’t handle, too much energy”. I ended up getting Black Lab/Doberman mix, and yes, she was a handful, but we fenced our back yard and made sure she got exercise every day. There was no more devoted dog. And in spite of those crazy puppy years, there’s no way, I’d ever have considered bringing her back.

    2) This isn’t specifically dog related, but when I went to find a kitten after losing my beloved cat companion of 19 years, I came upon a darling kitten alone in a kennel at the humane society who pretty much adopted me with her charm. Turns out she had previously been adopted out to a family, who then returned her to the shelter because they thought she was “too small to thrive”. Ironically, all her litter mates had successfully been placed.

    Sounds like another one of those bogus reasons for not keeping a pet. Babies (puppies and/or kittens) are work. People seem to forget animals are not toys, but are living, breathing things. I’m glad these folks returned the kitten to the human society and didn’t just drop her off in field or something, but really?

  5. June Pearson August 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Actually, I think those are great things for idiots to say at a shelter. Makes it easier to weed out those who don’t deserve a dog.

    • Beverly August 9, 2013 at 4:54 am #

      I was thinking the same thing!!!

  6. Lisa MacLean August 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    But now you’re allowing the people who will dock, dump, or scare an animal to know how to behave so they will get the dog. Wouldn’t you rather allow these people to weed themselves out by announcing their stupid intentions or past neglect?

    • Julie Schubeler August 8, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Exactly my thought!

    • Dyane Kirkland August 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      You’re assuming those people would actually read an article about animals. They don’t give them that much thought.

  7. Cathy Brown August 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    I am part of a rescue group and we get similar “thoughts” from folks who want to adopt from us. The “I’d like a male because I want to breed my female,” is one of my favorites…I had a woman with an 8 yr old female wanting to breed her FOR THE FIRST TIME, who asked if we had any intact males. People…

  8. Katy Bug August 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Boom! I feel the same about other cat adopters, too. My rambunctious one-year-old cat requires a lot of patience from me. (Though certainly not as much as a dog, I’m sure.) We adopted him because he seemed to like us and we wanted to give him a good home, not because we expected him to be a fuzzy, problem-free saint.

  9. Deb August 8, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    And how about the guy that turned up at our shelter to surrender his cat cause it was “too old”. The cat was 7yo. Then he asked if we had any kittens available for adoption! For you, no, we don’t! Tosser!

  10. Em August 8, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    this page is hissy and lame. your negative comments depress me. and no i dont and have ever gone in search for a pet.

    • britt August 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      Yes, we can tell you’ve never done those things. Sorry you have no respect for shelter animals. Also, if the name “The Dog Snobs” didn’t clue you in, well, there is just no hope.

    • Beverly August 9, 2013 at 4:57 am #

      While we are utterly crushed at the thought of having depressed you, we are equally relieved to hear you are not seeking pets of your own.

    • Wanda August 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      YOU, Em, are hissy and lame. This site is completely unfazed by your stupidity. They’ve all seen idiots like you before. Sad thing is, you are not even unique in your hissy lameness. Have a nice (pet-free) day.

  11. Michael Vick August 8, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    So, which breeds are the best at fighting?

    • Marcus Hill August 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Well now, that will set off the alarms!

  12. Julia August 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    I can hang with all but #6. I know its important to assure that the dogs in there don’t go out and make more of the same, but I now recommend AGAINST getting a puppy from the shelter no matter how nice a home you have because it will have been subjected to pediatric castration/hysterectomy. It totally screws them up, and no I am not quoting ” studies” to prove it. I know what I have seen, and they are all screwed up when you take major hormones away from them at 8 weeks, or 3 months… But when someone is obviously a responsible owner, and has credentials and is not going to go off and breed the dog, then why can’t they get the puppy and agree to s/n it when its old enough? Why? because we live in STUPID California which seems set on eliminating all dogs sooner or later with its ridiculous laws which require the shelter to do this no matter what..

    • Ronda August 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      Really????? This is one of THE most ignorant statements I’ve ever read. The best thing to happen to these precious animals BEFORE being adopted is to be spayed or neutered. There are WAY too many idiots out there that have NO business breeding animals. There are WAY to many in shelters now because of backyard breeding. I had a registered doberman many years ago and got her spayed when she was 3 months old. She lived to be almost 14 yrs old and was one of the best dogs I ever had. I started adopting from shelters and rescues in 2006, and I have also worked at 2 humane societies, and it’s amazing how many stupid people are out there that don’t have a clue about spaying and neutering. I thank God it IS a requirement that shelters and rescues spay/neuter. I have never seen a screwed up spayed/neutered animal.

      • Beverly August 9, 2013 at 5:21 am #

        Julia, I don’t like N/S-ing an 8-week old puppy either, and yes, it would be nice if we could trust people to follow through on their commitment to neuter/spay, but it rarely, RARELY happens. While it may seem harsh, the procedure is best done before puberty and, since we can’t rely on the general puppy-seeking public, we have to ensure the dog leaves “fixed”. Further, try and understand the state’s position. I have to assume that your experience is limited to your having owned dogs, and not having volunteered at a state shelter. Once you have to hold down litters of newborn puppies while a vet tech euthanizes them one by one for no other reason than the shelter not having the room or resources to house them, your attitude starts to change. Do that 100 times in a year, and the argument for leaving an animal intact at any age fades in the distance. “Responsible” just isn’t reliable anymore.

    • KellyK August 27, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Julia, I’m sure there are risks and drawbacks to pediatric spay/neuter, but a blanket statement of “it screws them up” doesn’t really prove your point. Especially since just being in a shelter correlates highly with *lots* of things that can cause a dog to be “screwed up”–abandonment, abuse or neglect, lack of socialization, careless breeding, etc. I mean, if you’ve personally interacted with tons of dogs, and the ones who were fixed as puppies *all* exhibit similar messed-up behavior, while ones who were fixed later don’t, that might be an indication of something. But changing a law that reduces the number of animals shelters have to euthanize should really require a lot stronger evidence than that.

  13. Kelly August 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    having been there and done that with rescue’s! I love and adore my shelter workers! Do I agree with everything that happens, NO! BUT! I agree with spaying and neutering and adoptions fee’s ! And if anyone thinks that getting a dog/puppy/kitten/cat for FREE is actually FREE< I will laugh in your face. I rescued a dog, had her spayed and shots That alone cost me close to $500 ! Oh and the dog I inherited from my parents she tore her ACL and that surgery cost me close to $3000, not including the check ups afterwards!
    Rescue's and shelters should get double the fee's and yes ALL should do home checks, I know our Rescue does and because of that we have kept many an animal from harm. Our local humane society also does checks and really its the dog that picks its new home, I know this as I did fostering, met 5 families who wanted this dog but she wanted NOTHING to do with them then came the 6th couple and they played not just with her but also my dogs and the foster didn't want them to leave. They adopted her a couple of days later! Oh and FYI while she was here I had to deworm her, feed her, water walk and love her. There is no such thing as a free dog!

  14. D~~ August 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    So i have a good shelter story – i was volunteering at the local Humane Society and we had a gorgeous german shepard girl. Everyone wanted to see her in the meet and great – people wanted her because she was so pretty and so big but she was painfully painfully shy. She would stare at the gate and not engage with anyone. SO many people would come to look at her for “a good guard dog” and I would just shake my head and sigh. One day I am working with the dogs and an older man and woman came in. He said – “I called and they said you had a German Shepard.” I hate to say but I thought – “Here we go again” in my head. I brought her the to the meet and greet pen and I let them know that she was a shy girl. The man said the most wonderful thing, “We’ll just sit down then and let he come to us when she’s ready.” I watched out of the corner of my eye for a while but lost track of them with all my other chores. When I checked on them about 20 minutes later, the man and woman were still sitting quietly in the same spot, but the shepard was lying down across their laps enjoying a good cuddle. My heart jumped for joy.

    I saw the man fill out the adoption paperwork and when he saw me he came up to me. He pulled out his wallet and inside he had a picture of an old german shepard sitting on a couch in a living room. He said, “Macy died 6 months ago and we are finally ready for a new dog. I swear to you this dog will never want for anything again.”

    I still tear up when i think of this story… It’s what rescue is all about — getting the right person for the dog. There are a lot of misfires but when you find the right fit it’s perfect.

    • TheDogSnobs August 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      BusyBee here–yay for good shelter stories! It can be easy to forget the good ones when you are swamped with bad ones, but it’s those amazing stories that keep us going, right? If it weren’t for the “perfect matches” and happy endings, I am pretty sure most of us couldn’t stay involved in rescue as long as we have.

    • Avery August 5, 2015 at 8:59 am #

      It must be lack of sleep or allergies or something, because my eyes are leaking. What a beautiful story. I’m quite sure that lovely shepherd girl never went a day without love and everything else a dog needs.

  15. Really? August 10, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    I don’t get the point of this. Are you trying to help bad people get around the rules? Its definitely not witty. This just seems dumb.

    • Kimmy's Keeper August 10, 2013 at 1:35 am #

      I personally don’t think ignorant people like the ones mentioned would even bother to read this page much less be smart enough to avoid the questions. Ive been volunteering at a shelter for over a year and you can just tell when a person comes in and looks at the dogs what they want them for.

  16. Deb August 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I work in rescue and have also heard it all. The point of this all is to vent. There are way too many stupid people out there and they want to adopt animals. Rescuers run across the most horrific stories and see horrendous cases of abuse. To laugh about “stupid people syndrome” relieves a bit of stress. Animal Cops Detroit, New York, or whatever city you watch – those are true stories that happen every day.

    No, this isn’t dumb. It’s staying sane!

  17. Jacklyn March 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Working at a shelter I have heard all of these. Except for “watch me make this dog freak out”. But I have also heard

    “I like him but his fur doesn’t really match my couches”
    “I want a dog that doesn’t need to be walked”
    “Do you think she would be a good mother?”
    “I’m look for a dog that doesn’t bark, isn’t messy, doesn’t shed, is already trained and doesn’t need a lot of exercise”

    • Gail F. August 28, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Reply to Jacklyn’s post (can’t believe that people would actually be so dumb, but anything’s possible) –

      If the dog’s fur doesn’t match your couches…Get new couches.

      If you want a dog that doesn’t need to be walked, Google “Royal Doulton Dog Figurines”, or get a stuffed toy dog.

      She would hopefully be a good mother to a future puppy that you buy from a responsible breeder or get from a shelter/rescue.

      If you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t bark, isn’t messy, doesn’t shed, is already trained and doesn’t need a lot of exercise – there are books of dog-centric photography and art, really. They don’t shed a bit!

  18. Gayle Gaston August 26, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    My shelter story… When we lost one of our labs after 15 years, we went to the shelter to find another to be a companion to our remaining lab, as I believe that one dog at a time is never enough, and dogs need other canine playmates. Anyway, as we were looking around for our new family member, we saw a little lab/chow mix that had been returned because she was a chewer. Uh, puppies chew things, that is to be expected. We took her home that day, and she lived first with our family, then with our son (they had a special bond) until she died also at age 15.

  19. sarahluzadre April 18, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m a bit late, I know. But I wanted to say something about no. 3. I completely agree with you on thet point. Not just for the reasons above, but for the fact that chances are, a shelter dog will not have the drive required to be a good protection dog. If a family is looking for a protection dog, they should go to an established kennel or dog training service.

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